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Careers – Alumni

Ferndown Upper School was established in 1972 and continues it’s distinguished record of providing high quality education for students and achieving consistent academic excellence. At Ferndown Upper School, we are so proud to have such a diverse network of former students and staff, many of them enjoy staying in touch as they continue to support our school. Through our Alumni network, we are able to make a valuable link between past and current students with them providing advice about career paths, universities, qualifications, apprenticeships and other future opportunities.

We welcome our alumni to our varied career-focused events and we would love to hear from you! You can get in contact by joining our LinkedIn network or completing the Microsoft form at the bottom of this webpage to become a part of our Ferndown Upper School Alumni Association.

We will keep you up to date with news and events happening at Ferndown Upper School and invite you along to our regular school events.

Why not join us on Linkedin on our dedicated Alumni group, just search ‘Ferndown Upper School – Alumni’

Alumni Stories
Every month we will aim to share a new alumni story with you. Showcasing what our previous students have gone onto to do since leaving Ferndown Upper School. Please watch this space for the first story!

Lucy Giles – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2016

When I left Ferndown Upper School in 2016, I went straight to University. I completed my undergraduate degree in English Literature at The University of Winchester and then went on to further my studies by completing a Masters also in English Literature. During my time at Winchester, I took on a part-time job as a Student Ambassador and was able to help other students to make the transition between school leaver and student. This was a great experience and allowed me to explore the different career routes that I could go onto have after my Degree.

When it was coming to the end of my undergraduate degree, I remember feeling unsure as to what to do next and not knowing what career path I really wanted to take. By taking on a Master’s Degree I was able to further my studies into English Literature and explore topics that I was really passionate about.

During my time at Ferndown Upper School from 2011-2016, I was able to take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. This was through getting involved in extra-curricular clubs such as Choir. By getting involved in extra-curricular clubs, I was able to go on and have amazing life experiences such as being able to perform in a sold-out show at The Royal Albert Hall with other local school choirs.

After loving my time at Ferndown Upper School so much, in 2020, the opportunity presented itself to return as a member of staff. I took on the position of a Teaching Assistant and have since progressed to becoming the Careers Leader and Careers Adviser at the school. By doing this role, I’ve been able to combine my love for Ferndown Upper School and everything I learned in my role as a Student Ambassador into one to be able to educate students of today about the future opportunities that exist for them once they leave school.

The one thing I would say to Ferndown Upper School students who are unsure of what to do next at any stage in their career/education, is to take advantage of everything that’s offered to you because you never know what doors it could open up to you.

David Sill – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2016

After leaving FUS Sixth Form in 2016, I dived straight into a degree-level Engineering Apprenticeship at Curtiss-Wright in their Defence Solutions division. I achieved a BEng Engineering Degree whilst working full time designing and testing flight-critical avionics equipment such as Multi-Purpose Flight Recorders (MPFR’s) and Air Data Computers (ADC’s) for military and commercial aircraft.

Whilst working full-time and studying for my Engineering degree, I also set up my own car tuning business called Momentum Tuning Ltd when I was just 19 years old. This business now has over 1,000 customers ranging from large commercial contracts to local celebrities and has modified a combined total of nearly £20M worth of vehicle value. In 2020 I set up a second business in the property rental industry in which I take on 6-8 bedroom Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO’s) under a 3-5 year Company Let Agreement and rent the rooms out individually under Assured Short-Term Tenancy (AST) agreements. The Momentum brand has grown to such an extent that I recently set up Momentum Modified Ltd and Momentum Specialist Cars Ltd too. I am now 24 years old and own 4 limited companies, three of which are in the automotive industry and one in the property rental/refurbishment industry.

During my time at Ferndown Upper School I was heavily involved in most of the sports teams including football, rugby and athletics which allowed me to network with new people outside of my usual friendship group. I still play football for a local team and many of the guys I play with are people I met at FUS. I genuinely think that playing sports is invaluable in building long-term connections and developing this competitive mindset from a young age has assisted me in various aspects of life and business.

Whilst at Ferndown Sixth Form, one of the best decisions I made was choosing Business Studies as part of my four A-Level selections. I still use a LOT of the knowledge I learned from this in running my four businesses and wouldn’t have been able to reach where I am today without this subject and teacher.

If I could give current Ferndown students some advice it would be this – You can do anything but you can’t do everything. Find something that you’re genuinely interested in and focus on it. When I left school, I went into engineering purely because I thought it would be well paid. However, my interest was always cars, property and business and since starting my vehicle tuning companies I’ve found that if you’re doing what you enjoy, the money will follow anyway.

Matt Neale – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2014

When I left Ferndown Upper School in 2014 I went on to start my scholarship at AFC Bournemouth. Having been part of the AFC Bournemouth academy since I was 9 years old, I was always keen to pursue my goal of becoming a professional footballer. This was something the school were very supportive of, allowing me to attend training during school time but also providing me with catch up lessons to ensure I also fulfilled my academic potential. In 2016 I achieved my goal of signing my professional contract and this is my proudest moment to date. Throughout my time at AFC Bournemouth, I also got involved within the local community, going into schools to talk about my experience and also coaching the younger generation. Unfortunately, in 2017 I was released from AFC Bournemouth unsure of what the future would hold.

After working full time for a year and playing non-league football I decided to go to university where I studied Sports Performance Analysis at Cardiff Metropolitan University. My 3 years at university helped me mature as a young adult and put me outside my comfort zone. The combination of educational, social and entrepreneurial experiences I had helped shape me into the person I am today.

Over the 3 years I was at Ferndown Upper School (2011-2014) I was always keen to get involved in sport. Whether that was helping out on sports day or representing the school in football or any other sport. My name was first on the list!

Following my graduation in 2022 I have now set up my own football coaching business to help improve the next generation of footballing talent. This is something I am extremely passionate about. Alongside this, I also work for a specialised performance analysis company working with professional football clubs and also at the world’s first football gym. Of course, I still play football too!

I feel like my time at Ferndown Upper School installed a hard-working mentality in me. I would have to miss some lessons due to my football commitments. However, the teachers and staff were very supportive and ensured that I went above and beyond to catch up after school. This has stayed with me as during both university and now working life I still have that hard-working mentality. 

Finally, my piece of advice for current students at Ferndown Upper School would be to try something new and get out of your comfort zone. I remember when I was younger, I always wanted to do things that I felt comfortable doing, but soon as you go outside of that, you never know what opportunities might come from it. Good luck current students!

Imogen Watkins – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2018

My Time at FUS

I attended Ferndown between 2013-2018, studying History, English, Sociology and Psychology at A-Level. I was also fortunate to be made Principal Student in Year 13, which really helped me get used to the amount of speaking I now have to do as I am currently training to be a barrister!

What have I done since FUS?

After completing my A-Levels, I read Law at the University of Bristol, graduating in 2021 with First Class Honours. Around this time, I was also really fortunate to be named a Lord Denning Scholar and a Residential Scholar by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in London, which resulted in my Bar Course being paid for and meant that I could live in Lincoln’s Inn – a truly beautiful part of London! This year, I have been completing the Bar Course, learning how to cross-examine witnesses and present arguments on behalf of clients. I have nearly finished this, and I am due to be called to the Bar of England and Wales in October 2022.

Whilst awaiting pupillage (the final step to becoming a barrister), I plan to be a County Court Advocate, attending different courts around the country and representing clients.

It has been an incredibly exciting few years for me and it is a career path I would very much recommend. Everyone is so friendly and always happy to help!

My one piece of advice

It sounds clichéd but my one piece of advice would be: don’t give up. Whilst I was doing my undergraduate degree, I was quite unwell with a heart problem and taken to hospital on a number of occasions. It was recommended to me that I drop out of Law School and come back to it when I was better, but this wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had always worked really hard and knew I didn’t want to give up. I stuck with it, working in hospital sometimes, and that hard work has paid off. So, I would say don’t give up – you will get there eventually even if it is challenging along the way.

Geoff Beck – Ferndown Upper School Leaver July 1984

I started at FUS in Sept 1979, and left in 1984 after two additional years of Sixth Form, and one of the earliest candidates for the recently-introduced Computer Studies exams, something that was to influence my future career.

Computer programming was a subject that I was hooked on from my first year at FUS thanks to the encouragement of my maths teacher, Mrs Burrows, and Mr Stuart who ran the lunchtime computer club; the days of RM 380Zs, Sharp MZ-80Ks and BBC Model Bs, if you want to Google them… and probably laugh! In those days we wrote all sorts of code from games programs to Space Invaders emulators, or algorithms to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

I went straight into retail management training after Sixth Form, and later tried another short career in finance, until going back to my true forte, computing, in the early 90s.

I started with the MoD Intelligence Services, and then onto the final projects to replace the defunct ARPAnet system with the UK’s node routing for a new-fangled worldwide network.

That network is now known as “The Internet”.

I moved on to work as a programme manager implementing new IT systems into the major UK banks, starting with Barclays, where I wrote the software code for their pensions admin system AND set up their new client-server setup.

As an added bonus, the woman who was the lead tester of my software became my wife, to whom I am is still happily married!

I went on to join Unisys, to head up systems architecture for the European Banking division; my first projects were the UK’s very first Internet banking systems for the likes of Nationwide, NatWest and Coutts. I later joined PwC as a Consultant to the banking IT sector, again specialising in Internet Banking solutions.

Disillusioned with some aspects of working directly for large corporates, I set up my own consulting firm, to do the same roles, but now being able to choose the projects… and decide my own diary!

The work has taken me all over the World, particularly the USA, mainland Europe, and offshore banking centres like the Channel Islands, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

I decided to tick off a few ’bucket list’ items, starting with designing and building our own house. Already a qualified private pilot, I took some time out to project-manage the restoration of several ex-military aircraft, including an ex-Red Arrows Folland Gnat jet, which was then flown in formation with the Red Arrows team at the first Bournemouth Air Festival in 2008.

After a very serious illness, I finally decided to leave the world of IT systems in 2014, and now consult in Data Protection law and cyber security.

During my Sixth Form days, me and my close friends raised a lot of money for several charities from, e.g. mufti days and the infamous Bristol Rotaract Stretcher Race – the photos of which are still classified! I’ve continued that ethos of fundraising throughout my life and have helped raise over £20m for many national and local charities in the last 35 years.  In 2008, I helped set up the John Thornton Young Achievers Foundation with John’s family, of which I am still a Trustee.

I now live in West Dorset, but still keep in regular touch with over 60 former FUS students, who continue to be some of my closest and most trusted friends.

If I were to give some areas of advice to students today, it would be these:

  1. Family
    Don’t ever let your career outshine your family. Your parents (and possibly siblings) won’t be around forever, and your own children will grow up faster than you can ever imagine – don’t miss it. Your real legacy in life will be them and your grandchildren, not how much you were worth, how big your house was, or what your job title was.
  2. Career and Life Changes
    Never give up even when things are at (what you think is) the worst. You’ll find out who your true friends are, so let them help you.
    Don’t let anyone dictate your path in life or career and don’t worry about career or company changes. They often happen, and invariably for the better. Concentrate on the factors that you can control, not those you can’t, and always trust your gut feeling, and (at least) listen to elders’ advice, even if you don’t act on it.
  1. Society and Humanity
    Don’t be afraid to speak your considered opinion, and stick up for the little guy who has limited voice. If you’re in a position to do so, try and put something back to those who really need the help, whether it’s time, effort or contacts. It’s not always money that helps.
    Never think you know it all – you never will. We are all still learning and always will be. Even your own children and grandchildren will say things that hit you between the eyes as the honest truth, or give you a wakeup call.

Learn, develop, teach, then learn some more… repeat ad infinitum.

Cory Newham – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2018

After completing my A-Levels and leaving Ferndown in 2018 I was accepted to the University of Winchester to study an undergraduate degree in Drama and Performing Arts. My time at university was spent primarily on my studies and meeting loads of new people, however there was still a part of my brain asking, “What is this all for?”. I remember thinking “have I just gone to university because that’s what all my friends were doing?”. It wasn’t until my final year at university combined with my experience at Ferndown, that I final realised what my passion was.

During my time at Ferndown Upper and Ferndown Upper Sixth Form from 2013 – 2018, I got involved with the drama productions and helped with direction and rehearsals during my free time and after school hours. I found an interest in this, so I assumed I wanted to be a director when I graduated. Having the teachers at Ferndown allow me to step into a more trustworthy position in school allowed me to explore all my options without any added stress or pressure from the “real world”. I started my time in Ferndown as a very introverted and quiet person but throughout the years I have done a complete 180 and now I’m proud to say one of my final assignments at university was a 30-minute one man show in which I achieved a first-class grade. Alongside this I conducted a Dissertation titled “Due to the evolution of Social Media, has there been an increase in desensitisation in regard to a younger generation”. Finishing this dissertation made me realise that I wanted to start a career in educating the young to prepare them for what is to come.

I then decided I wanted to become a teacher, focusing on teaching drama at A-Level as this was the subject that most impacted me when I was at school, so that I can pass on the skills and lessons that were taught to me, onto to my students. I faced many setbacks when it came to pursuing this which did knock my confidence such as lack of experience. But I remained vigilant and took the time to gather my resources and apply again a year later. I am now happy to say that starting in September 2022 I will begin my teacher training at the University of Exeter to achieve my QTS and finally begin my teaching journey.

I have learned many life lessons over these past few years which has shaped me into the man I am today. If I could give one piece of advice to the students of Ferndown today it would be to follow your heart, trust your gut and make mistakes, make loads of mistakes. But don’t let these mistakes define you, learn from them and grow to become an ever better you because at the end of the day the most important person in your life is you.

Dr Gregory Ashton – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2008

I graduated from Ferndown Sixth Form in 2008 with A levels in Physics, Maths, and Music. However, choosing my degree and University was not straightforward. I knew I wanted to go to University to continue learning, but I was torn between music and physics. In the end, the strong advice from Ms Vincent, my A-level Physics teacher, won out, and I started an MPhys at the University of Southampton.

Studying at degree-level was fantastic. I was able to throw myself into my studies. I particularly enjoyed being taught by real researchers at the forefront of their field. During my degree, I took plenty of opportunities to undertake summer research projects, from building photovoltaic solar cells to developing numerical models of magnetic materials. But, in my final year, I discovered a passion for astrophysics. This led me to enrol as a PhD candidate in 2012 to study gravitational waves, tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime created when black holes collide. When I started my PhD, these gravitational waves had not yet been directly observed, but in September 2015, the LIGO detectors made the first detection, and I was a co-author of the paper! This was a watershed moment for astronomy and won the founders of LIGO the Nobel prize in 2017.

Since completing my PhD in 2016, I have continued to work in gravitational-wave astronomy, making new discoveries about the properties of black holes. This work led me first to Hannover (Germany) and then Melbourne (Australia), working as a “postdoctoral researcher”. I enjoyed living abroad, making new friends, and contributing to cutting-edge research. Then, in 2020 I moved back to the UK and started as a Lecturer at Royal Holloway, University of London. My work now is split between research (I currently lead the LIGO Collaboration’s working group that finds black hole collisions) and teaching.

My time at Ferndown shaped me and provided the foundation I needed for success in my career and personal life. My teachers were passionate but taught me the importance of hard work, while my friends taught me how to enjoy life (balancing work and life is the key to real success). I was often involved in school activities, from building rollercoasters in physics to playing in bands through music. Looking back, I realise I learned many of the skills I now use daily (e.g. writing high-impact scientific papers with 1000’s of authors) by getting involved at school (e.g. helping to organise the leaver’s book).

My advice for students is to be unafraid to be passionate and take all opportunities with both hands. It isn’t possible to predict where you will end up in 10 years. Often, it depends much more on happenstance than anything else. But, if you pursue things that excite you and throw yourself wholeheartedly into those pursuits, you can ensure that you will be proud of your achievements.

Alex Meredith – Ferndown Upper School Leaver – 2016

After studying PE, Biology and Maths A level, I attended the University of Gloucestershire to study a BSc in Sports Therapy. During my time at University I learnt about common sporting injuries and how to fix them with manual therapy and rehabilitation. Throughout University I undertook many different placements, getting the opportunity to work in many different sports, most notably with the Vitality Netball Super League team, Severn Stars, which had past present and future England internationals. Since then I have gone on to work with football at clubs such as AFC Bournemouth and Reading FC, as well as working within the NHS during the Covid pandemic to rehabilitation those suffering from the short and long term effects of the virus. In the near future I am going to further my studies by undertaking a MSc in Sports Medicine, and I will also have the opportunity to present my work at an international sports medical conference in Denmark.

During my time at Ferndown Upper school, I was most fond of subjects such as science, specifically biology, PE and maths. I was also heavily involved in PE extra-curricular sports clubs. For me, to pursue a career in sport was obvious. Teachers at Ferndown Upper School helped support me to achieve this, and although some may have preferred me to study more traditional academic subjects I can not thank the teachers enough for giving me the skills in order to succeed with what I am doing today.

The one thing I would say to Ferndown Upper School students is, go to University, get out of Ferndown. Even if you are unsure of what to study, the experience of university is something you will never forget.